by Donnell Ann Bell

My phone rang early one Saturday morning, and, checking the caller I.D., I saw it was my critique partner Robin.  I picked up immediately, knowing she’d been fretting about getting her manuscript to Star Abernathy, aka Star Literary Agency and also Robin’s dream agent.

“Did you send it?” I asked.

“Yes.”  The sigh on the other end was audible.  “It cost me $13.29 to mail, but it’s gone.  Finis.  Now if only she likes it.”

“She’ll love it,” I replied.  Number one I’d critiqued it, number two my partner’s an awesome writer.  So what are you going to do today?”

“Clean the house I let go while I edited and proofread this manuscript.”

“Good plan,” I said.  “I’m going to hole up in my office and3”

The scream on the other end pierced my ear drum.  “Oh my gosh,” I cried.  “Robin, what’s happening? Should I call 9-1-1?”

“Just shoot me now,” she said.  “I can’t believe it.”

“What? What?”  If I had to drive up to Briargate from the south end of Colorado Springs to foil a murder, I needed to leave now.  “Talk to me, Robin?  What’s happening?”

“I found a typo.”

“A what?”

“You heard me.  A typo.  My sentence reads, ‘You almost cut off my ear off.’”

“Oh.”  I knew a despondent moment.  I’d been there.  How many contests had I entered where I thought the darn thing was perfect?   On one manuscript I’d sent my heroine said, “Peas… peas,” rather than “Please…please.” Remembering the incident, my face grew hot.  “She probably won’t notice,” I said.

“Are you out of your mind?  Of course she’ll notice,” Robin shouted.  “She’s Star Abernathy.  Her web page says don’t bother submitting if you can’t pay attention to detail.  Do you think ‘Cut off my ear off?’ is paying attention to detail?  I’m doomed.”  She moaned. “Doomed.”

For anyone else I might have said get over it, but Robin and I are both known to border on melodramatic so I said, “Maybe she won’t notice.”

“Or maybe she’ll reject me so fast my head still will be spinning at the next chapter meeting.”

“There are other agents,” I reasoned.

“Not for me,” Robin said, determination steeling her voice. “Pack a bag.  We’re flying to New York.”

Three hours later we were en route to the Big Apple.  I’m still not sure how she talked me into it.  Something about how she’d do it for me, and how if I didn’t she’d kill me.  I didn’t want to die unpublished so I relented.

We landed at La Guardia and I finally had the nerve to ask, “What happens now?  Should we book a hotel?”

Robin looked at me like I was nuts.  She flagged a taxi cab driver and directed him to drive us to Wal-Mart.

“Why Wal-Mart?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes.  “Because we need something black and I’m on a budget.”

Three hours later, the sun going down, we were dressed in black and standing on Fifth Avenue.  But this was New York and as people passed by, no one seemed to notice.  I glanced at Robin helplessly.  “It’s Saturday.  I’ll bet Star Abernathy’s not even in her office.”

“Duh,” she said.  “Come on.  That’s the plan.”

We entered the lobby to find a security guard sitting behind a marbled counter complete with security cameras.  No wonder Robin wanted Star to represent her.  The lady had done well.  “Okay, you distract him,” she said quietly.

“Excuse me?” I mumbled through the side of my mouth.

“Ask for directions, make chit chat,” she said, reaching into her purse.

Chit chatMe?  I approached the guard.  “Pardon me, sir.  Can you direct me to the Eiffel Tower?”

The man who bore the demeanor of an off-duty cop frowned. “The Eiffel Tower’s in Paris, ma’am.”

I turned to Robin.  “Boy, did you make a wrong turn.”

She shoved me aside.  “My friend doesn’t get out much.  She means the Statue of Liberty.  Say, you wouldn’t happen to know if Star Abernathy’s in today; would you?”

A knowing look came over the guard’s face.  “You’re writers here to pester Ms. Abernathy.”

Robin grinned at him sheepishly.

“Hold on,” the man said.  “I don’t think she’s in, but I’ll check.”

When he turned away, Robin dumped a couple of pills into his coffee.

Unable to believe my eyes, I pulled her away from the counter.  “What did you just do?”

“I gave him sleeping pills.”

“You take sleeping pills?”

She shook her head, clearly annoyed with me.  “Of course not.  You know better than that.  But for purposes of this article we need to knock him out.”

“Oh,” I said, her explanation all at once making sense.

“Sorry, ladies, she’s not in,” the guard said, conveniently taking a gulp of coffee and not objecting at all to author intrusion.  “Come back on Monday.”

“We’ll do that,” Robin said.

Outside we waited…and waited until finally the guard lay his head down and fell fast asleep.

“Let’s go.”  She tugged on my arm and my dream of being a successful author vanished.  Instead of black I’d be wearing stripes, and at what the awful look would do to my figure, I sighed.

As luck would have it, we found the keys to Star’s office in a metal drawer below the security desk and minutes later rode the elevator up to the agent’s plush office.  In the reception area, wall-to-wall manuscripts lined the file cabinets, and dread crept into my being.  No way did we have enough time to rummage through the numerous piles.

We entered Star’s inner sanctum, and again fate smiled, and for purposes of this article, we found Robin’s manuscript alone on Star’s desk.

Unfortunately our luck had run out and we suffered a black moment like no other.  In a matter of two days, the U.S. Postal Service, and with the volume of manuscripts awaiting her perusal in the outer office, Star had chosen Robin’s historical.

Worse, the manuscript was turned to page forty-three and the words ‘cut off my ear off’ were circled in red.  Robin’s shoulders slumped.  It was too late.  A rejection was only a heartbeat away.

I rounded the desk and scanned the note that said, “Star, this one has a typo.”  Signed Nelda Reader.

Tears streamed down my friend’s face.  I, however, saw an all-is-not-lost scenario.  “Robin, I don’t think Star has read it.”

Robin stifled a sob.  “She hasn’t?”

“No.  Look.”

Even with the blinds drawn and nighttime descending, sunshine illuminated the room.  I logged onto Star’s computer, using Star Abernathy as the password… the woman was so predictable…and retyped the errant page.

Both of us proofed and proofed until at last we were satisfied.  Then removing Nelda Reader’s damning note, we wrote, “Star, this one’s perfect,” then caught the next plane leaving New York.

The Typo ran in several RWA® newsletters as well as blogs

Copyright© 2007 Donnell Ann Bell