Doing Free Time
by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Will opened the letter from Stupendous Stories. He had just sent "Revenge of the Kudzu-Eaters" two days ago, and here was the reply. "Dear Mr. Stockton. It is with profound regret that I write to inform you..." A rejection! Well, he'd revise the story and send it to Daring Tales. He was pondering "which" vs "that", when the phone rang.
"Hi Will, want to go to the movies?"
"Aw, Mary Ann, I'm in the middle of a story..."
"But I didn't see you at all last weekend. What's the new story about?"
"I'm revising Kudzu-Eaters."
"SS didn't like it? That story was great!"
"Thank you. Look, I'll call you when I get done. Promise."
A new story. He did have an idea about a sequel to the classic "Mole Men" tale.
"The black needle ships descended in their thousands, disgorging the sinuous bodies of the Mustelid Marine. Ambush predators by nature, they made the ideal guerrilla warriors...."
He quit working on "Attack of the Space Weasels" when he got too hungry to think.
10:30. Too late to call Mary Ann now. He assembled a turkey sandwich. Then he made a second one.
In the morning, he kept his eye on the mailbox. As soon as the postman arrived, Will was out there to get the mail.
Not counting junk mail and bills there was a letter from Stupendous Stories and one from Daring Tales.
The envelope from Daring Tales contained "Kudzu-Eaters" – which he had only put in the mail that morning. Stupendous Stories had accepted "...Space Weasels." He looked over at the computer, where the unfinished story showed on the screen.
"I wonder how it ends," he thought.
He reached for the phone. "Mary Ann? I've got some time tonight; still want to see that movie?" Before they left he jotted down a note: "write something about an empire in an underground lake."
The next day he received $350 payment for "Empire of Darkness," and another $275 for the sequel.
Will quickly settled into the practice of coming up with story ideas and collecting checks for the unwritten stories.
Three months later he was arrested for the murder of his wife Mary Ann.
"I haven't even married her," he protested.
"You will," Sheriff Sims said grimly.