On February 18, 2013, President’s Day, Hypatia L., a forty-year-old writer from Wakefield, Massachusetts, settled down to take an afternoon nap and didn’t wake up for a very long time.
She had spent the earlier part of the day in her usual manner, scoping markets for her unpublished novel, checking her inbox for acceptance letters from agents or publishers. She had a finished novel that she had spent the last twenty years writing, perfecting. It was more than ready, and despite her published credits in shorter work—including some well-known publications—or her extensive education, her social media outreach to cull an audience, her leadership in an online writing group, her editorial efforts with a well-known lit journal, her informative seminars and teachings on the Art of Writing, or her drive and relentlessness to the craft, she could still not land a book deal.
On that very day she had also spent the morning reviewing the work of Dr. Dwayne Briar[i] about the many points of manifesting one’s destiny. According to Briar, the world wasn’t the issue—not the influx of would-be writers, or the clog in self-pubbed books, or that the Market wasn’t right for her book, or even that for every agent there were 7000 writers a week attempting to barge down the door to become a client—instead, the problem was Hypatia.
Briar’s four main points, which Hypatia had studied from various books written by the wise teacher, were quite easy, and something she reviewed before bed and then upon rising; on the toilet, over tea; she recited them when she fed her cat, Pippin, and during her long walks in the park, or while feeding the ducks in the pond: wish, ask, intend and believe.
According to her assessment, her book deal rested solely in her hands. It started with a wish: I wish to publish my book. Followed by asking how she could get that done exactly. What steps can I take immediately in order to fulfill my desire to publish a book with a reputable publisher? The answers were said to just come and to be ready and listen. Next came the knowing and sure-fire intent to manifest. I know I will publish my book. Followed by the most important step, belief: I will publish my book regardless of the good opinion of others. In other words, no matter how many doors were closed, no matter how many people said no, no matter how long it took, she must not, under any circumstances, have a shred of doubt that she would succeed.
I will publish my book regardless of the good opinion of others.
The element of doubt was a tricky thing, and the reason Hypatia gave up on emails and scouting that day, and decided instead to take a long nap. In sleep there would be no room for doubt. “I have done the work, now all I need to do is have patience and wait.” According to Briar, the Universe was working on her behalf all the time to bring the experience that matched her desire, right to her door. “I need do nothing.” And rather than sit around and dwell, and be a self-defeatist, she shut down the computer, and curled up on the couch beside the cat.
“Pippin,” she addressed the cat. “I will not awaken until my book is sold. Please make sure no one disturbs me until such time.”
And so it was, that Hypatia L. took the afternoon off from worry, and fell fast asleep.
As Hypatia slept she daydreamed about her novel coming to print. She saw the ink hit the page, and the binding get glued, and the perfect cover drawn, until finally, lots of little books, with her name on it came zipping down a conveyer belt, boxed and taped, and sent off to bookstores, homes, colleges, airports, and so on, all around the country, and then the world. Translators stepped up, and soon, she saw her book written in foreign languages, traveling over prairies and rice fields, and the Himalayas, and under the ocean to submarine workers, who no doubt valued her book too. Next came the reviews from all the top newspapers and journals. Soon television personalities, like Oprah and Ellen, began to ring her phone. This went on for some time, until all the critics everywhere couldn’t say another good thing about her book, and were asking for the next one. Then came the literary awards, followed by movie producers—Kevin Costner was the first to step forward. Her book, The Arrow-Maker’s Daughter, was an obvious choice. He loved the West, and resonated with the character of Ryley; he couldn’t get enough of the Native storytelling done by Little Sparrow, the arrow-maker’s daughter. “A true American masterpiece,” he said. “Ryley is the Odysseus of the West.”
As the dream continued, Hypatia got invitations to the release party, then the Oscars, where it won in seven categories, including Best Screenplay, which she herself penned. Next came the DVD release, and all the marketing goodies, like lunchboxes, plastic dolls, journals, arrow-shaped candy, picture books, and a stuffed white wolf to match the one in the book. With the success that such an endeavor profited, she used the money to move into a bigger house with her wife, Perpetua, and Little Pippin. The house came with an orchard, and lots of land to garden where she started her own farm, Arrow-Maker Farm, another dream. She hired a local staff to run it, while she got to work on the next novel, a historic epic. As people came to see her work, they purchased jars of apple bramble jelly to go with a signed copy of the book. Even though Hypatia was sleeping, she felt certain her mind was in the right place. Dr. Briar always said, you must see yourself living the dream.
When Hypatia did wake for a brief moment, she found an old woman sitting next to her.
“Who are you?”
“Don’t you recognize me?”
She wiped her eyes and thought it might be her wife Perpetua “How long have I been sleeping?”
“Did my book sell? Did it get published? Is that why you woke me?”
Perpetua, with wrinkled face, shook her head. “No, no one’s called.”
“Are you sure? Someone should’ve contacted me by now. Forty years and not an ounce of doubt.” She sighed. “Well, I won’t think on it for another minute, lest I get pulled into a mind virus of it’ll-never-happen.”
And with that, Hypatia L. pulled the covers over her head and went back to sleep.
As Hypatia dreamed, she saw herself walking the lanes of bookshelves in a giant bookstore, one that rivaled the imagination of Jorge Luis Borges or perhaps even the ancient library of Alexandria, and certainly the Strand in New York City. This bookstore reached all across the continent, across the Atlantic to Africa and up to Siberia, down to the Indonesian Islands, and stopped on the plastic flotsam island in the Pacific; at intervals, it even reached several space stations byway of nano-iron-alloy elevators.
While she perused the shelves, seemingly looking for the letter L to find her own book, she came across many of the world’s Classics: tried and true novels that for a variety of reasons stood the test of time. She found The Godfather by Mario Puzio, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, The Wind in Willows by Kenneth Grahme, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. As she walked, occasionally picking one up, skimming the first line, or page, or paragraph, she began to wonder what it was that made a book good.
There were so many books surrounding her, rows and rows, straight to the glass ceiling where planes and clouds passed. There were plenty she had never read and wanted to, plenty that she’d passed over without another look (that included all books with covers that featured shoes, fruit, or the back of a woman’s head); some she had read and loved, some she cherished above all others, like East Lynne by Ellen Wood or O Pioneers! by Willa Cather; some she buried in the ground to hide and keep safe for posterity; others were the darlings of the publishers, whose covers got a new facelift every year—those were the books she hated, because she couldn’t find anything to relish, anything that deserved to be appreciated. Ulysses by James Joyce was at the top of the list. He had his friend publish it, which was kind of like self-publishing today, and highly frowned upon in superior literary circles. It was those books, like Joyce’s, that made her feel isolated, as if she had really been raised on an island, apart from the rest of society, and taught another language. It was another tribe, one she didn’t belong to, that spoke for the greatness of those books, and somehow, their opinion stuck for all time, essentially taking up space for new authors.
“To hell with you, Joyce,” she said and knocked the book off the shelf, and gave it a little kick to make it disappear under the shelf.
Although Hypatia had spent the last twenty years reading about what it took to write a good book, the answer still eluded her. A good book didn’t always mean bestselling. To have the two together, that was something few authors achieved in their lifetime. But like Briar said, usually the most successful people—including authors—were the ones that didn’t take no for an answer; they were the ones that walked to a different drum—Joan of Arc, J. R. R. Tolkien, Lao Tzu—the non-conformists, who stuck to what they knew and were never swayed from abandoning their work.
Hypatia came across Robert M. Pirsig’s book in the P-aisle, and thought it was a worthy example of someone who didn’t take no for an answer. One-hundred and twenty-two publishers had turned down his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, yet one lonely editor saw its potential. Just one. The book went on to sell millions of copies all over the world.
“You didn’t say no, Pirsig.” Hypatia spoke aloud as if the author was there.
She turned to the opening pages, and noticed that every major newspaper critic had something good to say about it. This led Hypatia to wonder if the book really had merit, or if it was the opinion of others that made it a success? Was it word-of-mouth that caused it to sell? Was it club-mentality, the whole, everyone-else-is-reading-it-so-must-I mindset that fueled the second and third printing? For its day, was Pirsig’s book a true winner or a lemming book? Or did its success lie solely on the singular mindset of the author, his steadfast belief in his own work?
This was a gray area for Hypatia, even in Dreamland. She’d spent years watching the success of a book determined less by the reader and more on whether there was a marketing budget for it. If you knew someone in the biz, you increased your odds. Yes, readers were integral. But if they’d never heard of the book how would they come to read it, love it, and pass it on? Some authors got the marketing handshake, some didn’t; very few didn’t need it.
The more Hypatia walked, the less she had a grasp on what made a book great. She started to consider other things, not just the book’s promotion or readers, but things a writer did have control over, like the first sentence, or first page, the title, the opening chapter. She thumbed through a few first lines:
“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.” –J. G. Ballard, High Rise
“I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning.” Robert M. Pirsig, ZAMM
“On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor.” Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
“One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away.” Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
“Halfway down the rue Vercingétorix a tall guy seized Mathieu by the arm; a policeman was patrolling the opposite pavement.” Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason
“Who is John Galt?” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
“In an easy-chair of the spacious and handsome library of his townhouse, sat William, Earl of Mount Severn.” Ellen Wood, East Lynne
“The sun cooled in the sky over Branson’s Peak, as Ryley Cooper steered his horse through the high prairie grass, where a pack of black birds shot by overhead, blending in with the swirls of blue sky and white clouds.” Hypatia L., The Arrow-Maker’s Daughter
Some first lines pulled her in; others appeared boring. At the least, her own work seemed comparable to the others, certainly.
Then Hypatia thought maybe good had to do with the attitude and well-being of the reader on that particular day? If a reader was on vacation might he or she enjoy a book more? Or if they were rushed, on the way to work with little time to savor, would the book also take on a rushed feeling? Maybe, maybe not. Couldn’t she say the same thing about literary agents? After pursuing 1000 emails a day, with poor-me writers trying to solicit interest, wouldn’t it all be a little numbing? In all likelihood, the agent would probably seek to find fault in the book, anything to get it out of the queue, rather than see the good in it? In the Old Days, Hypatia knew there were no agents, no gatekeepers, only editors who reviewed books at a slower pace, and on occasion, took the author under their wing. (For what book started out perfect?) But editor-author handholding went out long ago, even before her day. Maybe her current struggle was tied to the fact everyone in publishing was too rushed—agents, editors, readers—to really appreciate a book today.
As Hypatia found her way to the Ls, and then to her own book, she realized none of that really mattered. They were just excuses. Reasons to doubt her own merit. Only her mindset was important. Who cared if an editor had time for her or not? If she believed in the book, eventually someone else would. The point was to not give up—and especially to not dwell on it. She would find the one person to believe, and soon, so would the rest of the world.
Incidentally, Hypatia stirred from her slumber. Sitting beside her, was a middle-aged woman staring at the blank wall, as if watching a TV; she blinked often, as if she might have a nervous condition. She got the woman’s attention.
“You there, who are you and what are you doing?” Hypatia noticed she was still resting on the same couch, with the same green blanket, though the house and surroundings had changed drastically. Although she couldn’t see her own face, her hands hadn’t aged, and she felt the same, though still dreadfully tired.
The woman blinked a few more times. “Just a second, I’m shutting down.”
Hypatia thought she had a familiar face, a little like her own. “Who are you?” she asked again.
“I’m your niece, Cassandra. Don’t you remember me?”
“You were only a baby when I went to sleep. How many years have gone by?”
“Twenty, since the last time you woke.”
“And Perpetua, where is she, and my cat, Pippin, what have you done with her?”
“Oh, both have passed on now.” She resumed her blinking.
“That is terrible news.” She paused. “What are you doing there? Do you have a twitch you need to get looked at?”
Cassandra laughed. “No, no, I’m surfing the Net.” She leaned forward. “See my contact lenses? I can shop, read, and socialize all with a single blink.”
“And my book, I’m assuming you woke me because my book finally sold?” Hypatia smiled, prepared to receive the good news.
Cassandra frowned. “I’m sorry, Auntie, no book deal. I don’t think the Market has room for a book like yours. Everyone’s reading Big Band.”
“Big Band, what the devil is that?”
“Oh,” she began, her eyes dreamy, “there’s a whole Renaissance in the Big Band era, you know, tales with crooning love songs and swooning hearts; I can’t get enough of it.”
“Well, I don’t want to hear about it. You’re only trying to deter me, and I won’t have it. Sixty years and not a single shred of doubt from me, I’m not giving up now!”
“There are tons of bills to pay,” interrupted Cassandra. “I think it’s time you get a job, don’t you think? I don’t know how much longer I can swing the rent for this place just for you to lay here.”
“Don’t bother me,” said Hypatia. “I’m going back to sleep. Don’t wake me until my book has sold. Not a moment before, and not a second after.”
And with that Hypatia L., shoved her head beneath the pillow and drifted off to sleep.
Hypatia slept deeply, and for a time, she found true peace, a long-standing stillness, one that made her feel as if she was rocking on a small boat in the middle of the ocean, a deep mist surrounding her. For some time, she rowed the boat, and then gave up control, and let it drift wherever it wanted to go. Life was like that, she once read: to get where you wanted to go, you had only to let go of the oars.
Up ahead, where the mists broke, appeared another boat steered by a shriveled up Chinese man, reading a book. When the boat neared, Hypatia called out, “Hello, old grandfather, what book are you reading?”
The grandfather glanced up, smiling.
“Do I know you?”
“You have read my book, the Tao-te-Ching, have you not?”
Hypatia nodded. “Two thousand years it’s been in print, Lao-tzu. Now that’s a bestseller. What’s your secret? Will you share it with me?”
“If you’ve read the book, then you already know the answer.”
Hypatia didn’t want to hurt the Master’s feelings by telling him that she’d fallen asleep on the sixth verse and never picked the book up again. “It was so long ago.”
“You read with one eye open, yes? Too busy to savor such a small book?” He smiled. “I will share the secret again:
Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty, only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Being and nonbeing produce each other.
The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
Before and after go along with each other.
So the sage lives openly with apparent duality and paradoxical unity.
The sage can act without effort and teach without words.
Nurturing things without possessing them, he works, but not for rewards;
he competes, but not for results.
When the work is done, it is forgotten.
That is why it lasts forever.”[ii]
Hypatia blinked, her lips puzzled in a ball. “Uh, right. Clear as a bell.” She wanted to ask him what it meant, but his boat had already passed and slipped through the mist. She went on a little ways, first steering, then letting the ebb take the boat wherever it liked. Soon, shrouded in the mist came another boat, this time with an older man boasting a wide, tooth-filled grin. She knew his face immediately—it was Dr. Dwayne Briar.
“Hello, there.” Hypatia waved.
“Hello,” he said, as his boat came into reach.
“Wow, there is so much I’ve wanted to tell you, and now that you’re right here in front of me, I can’t think of a one—ooh, I know! I’ve totally put your principles for changing my life into practice. Just waiting now for the good fortune to come my way.” She pondered for a few seconds. “Maybe you can tell me why no one’s woken me up to tell me my book is published. It’s been quite a while. Did I do something wrong?”
“Outcome,” said Briar. “You’re still focused on the outcome. All the great masters knew enough to take joy in the work. The journey begins with a single thought, followed by hard work free of the good opinion of others, all the while not worrying about the outcome.”
“The journey is important, not the destination?”
“That’s right.” He smiled. “At some point you have to let go and just be. That is what the words of Lao-tzu mean: with effort comes no-effort. With doing comes not-doing. With beginning comes an end. You can’t have one without the other.”
“I guess that makes sense?” Hypatia still wore a puzzled look.
“It’s like playing a game of soccer and not worrying about winning the game. While you’re in the thick of kicking the ball around, you have fun, and you’re truly present.” Briar continued, “It’s the same thing when you’re writing a book. When you’re on chapter one, you aren’t worried about the ending—you might have a clue where you’re going, but you enjoy the process. Write for the sake of writing, not the outcome. And when it’s finished, get to work on the next one.” Briar’s boat started to disappear in the mist. He waved, “Don’t worry about where you should be—just be. That’s all there is to it.”
Hypatia’s boat drifted on into the mists. She ran her hand in the water, and touched it to her face. She listened to the way the water cupped the side of the boat; she closed her eyes and felt the swaying, the tranquil movement. “This is peace,” she thought, breathing in and out. “I need be nothing more than this.”
But then the rocking grew more intense, until the boat was tilting back and forth, water filling the hold. Hypatia tried to bail it out, but it poured in, sinking the boat. As she went under, the water nearly choking her, she suddenly woke—
Sitting beside her was a twenty-something-year-old boy, holding an empty cup. “About time you woke up!” He handed Hypatia a towel. “I thought the water might work.”
“Who are you?”
“Cyril, your great-great-grand-nephew, or some-such relation.”
“Why have you woken me?”
“I sold your book, and they’re asking for another one.” Cyril put on a devilish smile. “I was going to pen the sequel myself, but figured it might be easier to wake you and have you do it.”
“My book sold? How long has it been?”
“You’ve been asleep for a hundred years. You’re now the oldest living author in the whole world and everyone wants to know about you.”
“No. We’re so rich, we could buy a whole country, and never work again.” Cyril chuckled. “Course, wouldn’t two country’s be even better?”
“Where’s my book?” demanded Hypatia. “Show it to me.”
“Well, you’re in luck, because they stopped printing books ages ago, and well, seeing as you’re a relic in your own right, the publisher decided to resuscitate a print version in your honor. It’s made out of recycled trash.” Cyril handed it over. “Have a look for yourself.”
The moment had finally arrived. Hypatia L. took the book into her hands, ran her fingers over the gold lettering, the gorgeous cover, pleased and so grateful it wasn’t a pair of shoes or fruit, but a beautiful Native American woman holding a golden arrow. “It’s beautiful,” she cried. “Better than I’d imagined.” She thumbed the pages, pleased that the book’s dedication went to Perpetua and Pippin, the two that had stuck by her and made the book’s existence possible. “Now a major motion picture?”
“Kevin Costner’s great-great-grand-children signed on to produce, in honor of his life’s work.”
Hypatia pressed the book to her chest. “I did it! I finally manifested the publication of my book.” She looked at Cyril. “Tell me, did the publishers get wind of me through my short fiction. Or was it my blog, or word-of-mouth. Tell me, how did they discover me?”
“Your niece started the ball rolling, some forty years ago, sending letters out to editors to see if they were interested. Most turned it down, saying there wasn’t a market for it. It fell to me, and let me tell you, seeing you lying on your back every day, while I had to go to work got me miffed. I posted an ad in the Evening Chronicle about you and the book, and the next day I had a hundred offers.”
“Just like that?”
“Yep. They all liked the story of you being asleep for one-hundred years. They can’t wait to meet you.”
“But the book, did they like the book?”
“I don’t think it mattered. It was something they all believed would sell.”
Hypatia felt a little deflated, tired even, enough to go back to sleep, but realized there was no point. Her book had indeed been published; there was nothing more to wait for.
Over the subsequent months, Hypatia went on a whirlwind book tour, via the Net and TV. The book was a phenomenon and so was she. She eventually warmed to the idea that the book, in its own right, was ultimately loved and cherished by millions; how it began seemed less and less important.
Soon, she bought a little farm and orchard, as she had always hoped to do with the sale of her first book. She got an office set up in which to start her next novel. She also had the local librarian start a library for her. Much to her surprise many of the Classics she’d remembered in her day where not included. “What’s become of Mitchell or Buck? Where are Tolstoy and Vonnegut?”
“I don’t know whom you’re speaking of,” said the librarian. “Were they once popular authors?”
“They were in my day. You couldn’t get a book published unless you had the weight and appeal of one of these bestsellers.” Hypatia perused the Js. “Joyce, do you know Joyce?”
“Who? Oh, Reardon Joyce, you must mean, one of the old Big Band writers? He died last week, so everything’s been reissued.”
“James Joyce, Ulysses?”
“Never heard of it. Good book?”
A smiled brimmed on Hypatia’s face. “A world free of Joyce. It is a truly great day!” With that Hypatia set to work on her next novel.
Hours turned to days, and then weeks to a year, while Hypatia wrote every waking minute. Her dream had been to be peer-reviewed, to move into the elite circle of published writers, and now that she had reached the goal, she wanted to stay there. Every thirty days she finished a new book—made possible with implanted brain software allowing her to think the story into being—so in the course of the first year, she had produced twelve new books. She no longer had to worry if they were marketable, well-written, or even if the audience would like them. She was free of the need to search for an agent—she was on Top, and the public read whatever she put out. Sure, a few weren’t as successful as the others, but that didn’t seem to matter. If it had the name Hypatia L. on the cover, it sold.
Several years passed. Hypatia had gone through the stacks of ideas she had collected in her poor-years, ideas she had only hoped to write, but never believed she’d actually get to in her lifetime. Now, she was all tapped out, the public still demanding more. “Sequels,” they called for. But she was tired and didn’t want to write. In the ensuing quiet, with her mind empty, no longer on a new, vast world, or new characters and conversations, she had time to think about her old life.
Hypatia longed to go into the other room with a page of prose and read it to Perpetua. Her wife had always been her first reader, her confidant on top-secret plots, her co-pirate in epic adventures. The joy that got her through the day was seeing Perpetua’s face when she finished reading some tidbit of hers. She could tell if it resonated, even without her saying. It was Perpetua’s interest that helped fuel her drive to work. But now, all that remained were faded memories, her lover’s voice faint.
Hypatia also thought of Little Pippin, her wonderful cat that sat on the table while she typed. Often Pippin served as someone to read the story aloud to, which helped identify problems with narration or dialogue and all sorts of things. Pippin was patient with her, as was Perpetua. Few knew it was Perpetua that worked to pay the mortgage and food, while allowing Hypatia time to finish her masterpiece. They lived poorly, forgoing vacations, new clothes, furniture, and other things that most normal people possessed. It was essentially Perpetua who drove Hypatia on. She was determined to do right by her. At the end of every day she had little to show for her efforts, only a few pages of words, a new battle scene, perhaps, or a few pages of flowery description. But Perpetua didn’t care, and always encouraged her to keep going.
A hundred years in the future, Hypatia looked around her, realizing her friends, her family, the places she’d come to know and love, the roads she walked, the world she wrote about, had all changed. Even with all her success, none of it seemed to matter without the few people she cared about to share it with. Part of publishing the book in the first place was to show Perpetua that all their sacrifice had paid off. Now she didn’t have her, only the book, which seemed unimportant and meaningless.
“What I wouldn’t give for just one more look, a kiss, a careless walk in the park with Perpetua, or another pet-pet with Pippin, another listen to her purr-purr.”
The sadness overwhelmed Hypatia. So did the droves of people invading her farm to get a look at her writing through the open windows.
“Are you done with the next book?” they demanded.
Hypatia went to the living room for a sit-down. On the table lay an e-brochure from the people who had set up her old house as an author’s museum. The unveiling was tomorrow, and Hypatia was supposed to attend as the guest of honor. In the e-brochure, with it’s interactive slides that showed each room, Hypatia felt homesick, even if they didn’t have the details right, like the office—she’d never used a desk, or an office. The kitchen table was her writing place, bright and airy, close to her teapot, and the bird feeders where she could look out in between sentences. She missed those days; she missed the house and all that went with it.
As she put her head down to rest, she began to yearn desperately for her old life. At her core, she found without the people she loved in her life, there wasn’t a point to living—or was it writing.
Hypatia fell into sleep, although it was restless. She found herself back in the misty river swimming, and in search of a bathroom, not wanting to pee in the water, though it seemed that no one was around to notice. Then it occurred to her that she only had water dreams when she had to pee in waking life, and that the trick was to force herself awake in order to get out of the water and into a real bathroom.
As soon as she thought it, Hypatia found her eyes fluttering open, her heart racing. She expected to see her house on the farm, but instead she was back in her old house—not the museum—but her real old house. The rain was tippy-tapping the roof and gutters outside, the light in the room had grown darker, as if only a few hours had passed; night approached. Pippin was sleeping peacefully on her legs. She did indeed have to pee, but thought she could wait.
As she lay there, the strange dream ran over in her mind. She recalled the joy of seeing her book in print, but also the sorrow that followed. Almost immediately, in true writer fashion, she considered writing the dream into a short story, but a critic-voice reminded her that there was no market for such a story. Stories that ended up as one big, long dream weren’t worthy anymore—too predictable, they said. They’d been done to death by the preceding generation, and were no longer commercially viable.
She shrugged and let the idea pass.
Hypatia relaxed and pet the cat, the slow purr began with a low vibration, until it swung into a full melody, filling the room. Pippin poked her head up, a cat-smile on her face. Not too long after, Perpetua came home from work. “How was your day? Get a lot of writing done?” she asked. “What’s for supper?”
“It was an okay day,” began Hypatia. “Not a lot of writing, but I think I got pretty far on some other stuff.” She paused, thinking about how unimportant the outcome was, how it drew her away from the moment, into a far-off place in the future, ultimately cheating the present—the very preciousness of the day-to-day that made her life what it was, what gave it joy, and made it worth living. “How about we order take-out?”
“Don’t you have writing to do?”
Hypatia thought about her pending emails she still hadn’t sent; she hadn’t reached her Five-A-Day goal, her next batch of queries to another group of potential agents or publishers. She imagined her inbox might even be full since she last checked it, several hours ago. Surely someone in the industry must’ve contacted her by now.
She was about to get off the couch and power up the computer, when she looked at Pippin, so peaceful and content, her little cat-breath moving up and down in a constant rhythm. Perpetua came and sat down at the end of the couch. “If you have work to do, I’ll heat something up for us.”
“No,” said Hypatia, taking her wife’s hand. “There’s plenty of time for work. It’ll be there tomorrow, and the next day.”
“What about the book? You won’t get it published just sitting here?”
“Maybe.” Hypatia smiled, stealing a kiss. “I’m where I need to be right now. And this is all that matters.” She got up and went to the bookshelf. “Do you know if we have any Joyce?”
[i] Modeled after the teachings of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.
[ii] Lao Tzu, second verse of the Tao-te-Ching, trans. from Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.
Hunter Liguore, a multi-Pushcart Prize nominee, earned a MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. Her work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, New Plains Review, The Irish Pages, Empirical Magazine, The Writer’s Chronicle, DESCANT, The MacGuffin, Rio Grande Review, Strange Horizons, Amazing Stories and many more. She revels in old legends and heroes. She is currently seeking representation for her literary novel, The Arrow-Maker’s Daughter. www.skytalewriter.