How clever was the first thought that sprang to mind when I read the words printed on the slim thread of paper that had mysteriously appeared on my desk when I returned from lunch.
A mirrored sentence. A mirrored American Sentence to be more poetically specific. How clever, indeed.
Although it bore no signature, I felt safe in assuming it was from my editor, Jedediah Truck, as one: the author referred to me as Wingnut, and nobody but Truck calls me that. And two: it was as close to a congratulatory note on a job well done as one could expect from the likes of Jedediah Truck.
Beaming from ear to ear as I allowed myself to bask in his much desired praise, I read and reread the note until I noticed the forward words ‘saw that’ sandwiched incriminatingly between hguot and tungniW.
Instantaneously, the icy fingers of guilt grasped the goose flesh that had risen to attention at the nape of my neck. All exuberance was erased, and unbridled panic set in.
I forced myself to read it again. He ‘saw that’. The realization of what that must mean hit me like a baseball bat to the thorax. .
But how? Had he seen me scouring through the stacks? Was there a camera in the library? If so, how could it be that I didn’t know about the camera? I had spent the better part of my adult life in those stacks. Research was the pinnacle of my profession.
No, I concluded breathlessly, there could not have been a camera in the stacks.
That could only mean he had seen me with his own two eyes.He had been there. He had observed me foraging through the works of all but unknown authors. He had seen me dribbling passages from their works into my notebook. Passages that no matter how I had rewritten, reworded, or reworked them into what I was now passing off as my own work- he had recognized as being pilfered passages just the same.
Beads of guilt-ridden perspiration lept from my brow. How could I ever face him- face any of them, again? The fact was, I couldn’t.
“Run!” my coward’s heart screamed loud in my ears as my eyes darted about the room in search of the clearest path to escape.
Before I could will my feet to move, a firm hand thudded to rest on my shoulder. My knees nearly buckling beneath me under the weight.
“Finster you old dog!” Boomed the voice of my co-worker and fellow writer Buck Hendersen. “Didn’t know you had it in ya!”
Struck speechless by the possibility that he also knew, I tried to smile, but succeeded only in grimacing, as I made a quick swipe across my forehead, mopping the sting of sweat from the crest of my brow with the freshly starched sleeve of my shirt.
“This calls for a celebration! Drinks are on me!” Hendersen roared, smacking me on the back again for emphasis. “And don’t you go trying to get out of it, old man! It’s already been arranged.”
Before I could stop myself the words, “I’ll meet you there.” stuttered across my parched lips, as the vision of my vehicle flying past our offices unofficial meeting place, McNaulty’s, flashed through my mind. I was watching myself making a reckless high speed dash over the border when Truck, Simmons- Truck’s editorial assistant, and our proofer, the ever cheeky Miss Haritgay, descended upon me from all directions.
“You will not!” Simmons interjected forcefully, as he too slapped me hard on the back in what at any other moment in time I would have recognized as a congratulatory gesture, but right this moment felt unmistakably like the clapping on of irons.
‘No!’ Miss Hartigay sung out perhaps a bit over zealously, “Truck with you, Henderson and Simmons with me! I am taking these virile young specimens with me, Finster! You’d hardly deny me the chance to get the two of them alone in the backseat of my car after a night of drinking now would you?”
“Hardly.” I eked weakly, as Truck closed in and swung his thick arm about my shuddering shoulders, pulling me in tight.
My heart nearly leaped from my chest.
“No doubt you noticed that unforgivable typo in the note I left you, Wingnut.” Truck whispered most solemnly in my now ringing ear. “I know I can count on you to keep that bit of information to yourself.”
“And I call myself an editor!”
I have tnkerr to thank solely for the inspiration for this piece. I pilfered the pasted text straight off the pages of The New Unofficial On Line Writers Guild and managed to work in the three phrasal prompts offered this week in the OLWG #132 challenge. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.