Calling myself a writer before I was published made me feel like a poser. Almost two years ago, a publisher printed my work, and the poser died. With the check in hand, I assessed my feelings. I felt more solid, as if my words were equal to other writers’ words, my stories just as good and my identity—a full-fledged bonafide paid fiction writer—authentic. An industry insider had validated my writing career pursuit. My dreams were not a Walter Mittyish farce.
Let Heaven’s saxophones wail.
Okay, I’ll admit that the check was only for twenty dollars, and I spent at least twenty hours perfecting my short story over weeks, bringing my pay to one dollar per hour, a rate that I once made babysitting forty-five years ago. But hey, it was better than nothing, and other writers assure me (much to my dismay) that twenty dollars for a short story is high praise and good pay.
I opened my printer and placed the check on the glass, pressed color copy and watched as a replica of the check emerged from the machine. Having had children who received many certificates over the years from sports, scouts and school, I now have an inventory of document frames in my basement. I went downstairs, grabbed one, washed it off, polishing the glass to a gleam, before I placed the copy in the frame and then hung it over my desk.
When my husband came home, I showed him my check and the framed copy. He laughed. Damn it all. But twenty bucks are twenty bucks—enough to buy a tasty bottle of champagne.
You know what I did that night, and I didn’t share.