I’m going to be a famous writer,” Jimmy Jones said with a smile that stretched from ear to ear while he stood at the front of his fifth grade classroom, his sharp blue eyes smiling just as bright. Short brown hair, neatly combed with a few strays sticking up here and there, bounced along as he spoke. He looked down and continued to read from his assignment, entitled: What I want to be when I grow up.
You must login to vote
“I think you might be interested in a certain author,” Ms Langley, his English teacher, had said to him after class. She had noticed that he was reading far more advanced material than the other students. After walking over to her desk for a moment, she came back with a newspaper and handed it to Jimmy. The Big City Daily. She guided him to a particular article a few pages in. “He writes a column in this paper every Friday, and he’s famous for his ability to tell wonderful life stories from only a ten minute interview. He’s also written a number of books that you can find at the library as well.”
Jimmy read the heading of the article Ms Langley pointed out: Life in 10 Minutes by Michael Glumwater. He thanked his teacher and ran home to show his parents the article, and to ask them if they could subscribe to the paper. His parents thought it was wonderful that he was so enthusiastic about it, however they were experiencing financial issues at the time and the city newspapers were expensive. After thinking hard about it, Jimmy came up with an idea.
“I can get a paper route job, and that can pay for the newspaper,” he said to his parents.
“Jimmy, that’s a brilliant idea!” his father responded. “I’m glad you’re serious about it and willing to take on a responsibility like that.” Jimmy’s eyes beamed as his mother agreed as well.
After exhausting paper routes, long evenings at the library, and reading The Big City Daily column just before bedtime, Jimmy dreamed more and more about becoming a famous writer. He started writing his own stories inspired by the ten-minute interviews. Soon Michael Glumwater had become his idol, and he began to day-dream about working along side the respected columnist. Late one evening, just after he set the newspaper down before going to bed, his imagination began to churn away:
There they were. A dimly lit back office, cigar smoke lingering in the air like a dense fog, two well-worn burgundy leather armchairs and a mahogany desk with golfing trophy paper-weights. The wallpaper had yellowed and began to peel near the ceiling from years of air-borne nicotine and corporate profanity. The furniture and paintings on the wall a classy mask to cover up the shrewd and vulgar transactions of the world of big business.
Jimmy Jones—dark pants and white shirt, hair combed neatly to one side. Michael Glumwater—taller and lanky, matching navy slacks and blazer, slightly frazzled hair. The two of them accepting shots of old bourbon whiskey from the nation’s wealthiest tycoon, with his full white beard, rotund belly, and an extraordinary ability to keep his thick cigar from falling off of his lip while he roared out a few laughs.
After a second round of warm alcohol, Jimmy Jones announced the interview was to commence. They all sat down together, with the tycoon fitting snugly into a black leather chair behind the desk, feet propped up over his paperwork. Michael Glumwater whipped out his notebook and pen, shot a razor-sharp question over the desk, then leaned back with eyes sharp as tacks, ready to study the old coot’s reply.
Ten minutes later they were jumping into the waiting taxi, gaving the address and telling the driver to step on it. They flew down the city streets, weaving in and out of the endless chaos of traffic. Once back at the office, Michael Glumwater kicked open the door, ran over to his desk and threw some paper into the typewriter. Seconds later ink was slamming onto the blank sheets, the sounds of the metal keys echoing out of the open doorway and into the darkened corridors.
Jimmy Jones grabbed the finished story and burst down the hallway, getting it to the pressroom moments before the deadline. Michael Glumwater walked in and leaned against the doorframe. He took a long drag off of a cigarette, and after letting the smoke roll slowly out of his mouth and nostrils, turned and looked at Jimmy Jones with smirking eyebrows.
“We did it again, kid.”
Over time Jimmy noticed that nothing was written about his favorite author’s life. The only information he knew was the brief author description on the back page of one of his latest books, which merely stated that he wrote for The Big City Daily. Of all the books he had written, and all the articles in the papers that Jimmy read, his idol’s own history was a mystery.
After a some contemplation and plateful of chocolate chip cookies, his eyes widened as the most brilliant thought had occurred to him: Jimmy Jones would be the first to interview Michael Glumwater! He raced over to the small desk in the corner of his room, punched on the light switch to his desk lamp, and slammed a notepad down. Moments later questions were pouring from the lead of his pencil to the paper below it. His mind raced with all the possibilities, the magnificent stories he would discover, the genius of the whole idea!
Three hours later he wiped a crumpled mess of papers off the desk and held up a single sheet of paper to the light.
After reading your books and columns I am left fascinated by your ability to tell and explain a story. What was the fuel behind your desire to become a writer? In other words, I’d love to hear your story.
The letter was then typed the next morning and mailed off to the newspaper’s address, attention stating Michael Glumwater. A small note on the envelope displayed Please reply to sender.
Two weeks had past until Jimmy opened the mailbox to find a single envelope with his name on it. His jaw dropped as he stared in awe at the return address: The Big City Daily. He bolted into the house and up to his room and jumped into his chair. He turned on the desk light and stared at the four-by-nine inch, white envelope he held in his hands. His mind raced at the possibility of wild stories contained within it.
He reached over and picked up his father’s letter opener—which he had placed on his desk the same day as he sent the letter, to be formally awaiting the reply—and carefully sliced the top flap open. He slipped out a single, tri-folded sheet of paper from inside. His nostrils picked up the faint smell of pungent cigarette smoke, a hint of old alcohol following afterwards.
Jimmy Jones gleamed as he held the folded sheet, reveling in the thought of having the first interview of Michael Glumwater; the first glimpse into the mind of an iconic writer. Slowly, he unfolded the paper.
my story is much too boring
Jimmy blinked. He turned the paper over, then back, then over and back again. He felt his heart and stomach dive deep into the floorboards. After nearly a year of running paper routes, going to the library, staying up late to read the columns, and feeling the excitement of writing the first interview question for a famous author and sending it off to the news office… he held in his hands a sheet of paper with only six words scribbled on it.
“He didn’t even capitalize the first letter,” Jimmy said as he felt a tear slowly make its way down his left cheek, stopping at his lips. The tang of salt hit his senses like a brick. He dropped the letter from his hands, and it floated down to the floor next to a stack of newspapers.
Over the next few weeks Jimmy’s excitement had all but slipped away, and his grades in school dropped as well. English classes—which he once loved and excelled in—were the lowest. Ms Langley called his parents for a conference, and they went over what they felt was the root cause of the problem. Jimmy’s father presented the letter to the teacher that he found in his son’s bedroom. He then told her the story of how Jimmy had contacted the famed author, and his previous excitement about it. After reading the letter, the teacher offered some advice.
That evening Jimmy heard a knock on his bedroom door. A voice crept in through the keyhole.
“Jimmy? Can I come in?” His father opened the door, the light from the hallway falling into the dark room and stretching across the bed where the back of Jimmy’s head was poking out from under the covers. “Are you awake?”
Jimmy mumbled a response.
“You know,” his father started, “I found that letter Mr. Glumwater sent back to you. Sometimes people who are famous don’t have time to lead interesting lives. If that’s the case, then you shouldn’t let only one person get in the way of you becoming a famous writer.” His father paused and watched the shape under the bed cover shift slightly. “Well, your mother and I believe in you. And don’t forget your teacher, Ms Langley, and your classmates and friends. You already have a fan club. And together we’re more than just one person.”
His father stood for another moment, then slowly closed the bedroom door.
Twelve years had passed since that night and Jimmy Jones was up on a stage receiving an award for having three books on the bestseller list for an entire year. He was the youngest author to accomplish the feat.
Later on that evening after his book signing, a middle-aged gentlemen in a navy blazer holding a notepad and pen walked up to Jimmy and introduced himself.
“Good evening, Mr. Jones. My name is Michael Glumwater, and I’m from The Big City Daily newspaper. Your achievement is most impressive, and I am curious to see if I could have ten minutes of your time to learn about your story.”
“Well, Mr. Glumwater,” Jimmy said, concentrating on packing up the remainder of his books into a cardboard box. After closing the lid, he turned and looked the reporter in the eye. “I can assure you that my story is anything but boring.”
Michael Glumwater froze, his mind traveling back, searching for something in the depths of his memory that sounded so very familiar. After a moment an image flashed into his mind: A letter he was folding with six words scribbled on it—the first one he had not bothered to capitalize—and ashes from his cigarette floating down onto the other papers and folders strewn across his office desk, some of it melting into a half-drained glass of red southern whiskey. He heard his named being called somewhere in the distance as he saw himself slipping a paperclip over the folded sheet and an envelope that had Please reply to sender written on it, then dropping them onto a pile of letters in the mail-cart to be sent out the next morning by his secretary.
“Yes?” Michael Glumwater snapped out of his trance and looked at Jimmy, who was still staring him straight in the eye.
Jimmy Jones then smiled and leaned over and said, “You have nine minutes remaining.”
"Never give up!"