Panic-proof

There I was, heading to the post office a day early with my manuscript of Mackerel Sky.

The gentleman at Pip made copies on nice paper for me and, before pulling away, I sat in the car and read the opening paragraphs, now so stark on the bright white paper.

As I read, my stomach turned and I felt it was horrible. I also felt it could be fixed, I just wasn’t sure how.

But, back a bit. When I wrote this story, the first paragraphs came easily and sure. So during several revisions, I hardly touched them.

As the story improved, those opening paragraphs remained largely the same. Yet, in the end, it was a much better story than I began with, and when I read those opening paragraphs for a final time, I realized that one of the earliest, surest sentences was just wrong.

I struggled. How to make it work? Could it be done?

I had another day before the postmark deadline, so I went about my errands.

Then, as I pulled into my 2:30 p.m. appointment, I realized I could fix the opening by changing a single sentence.

And so, dear readers, here is the opening paragraph:

He stood before the mirror a ghost, a fading man. From his heavy forehead to his flagging cheeks, the features he knew, the ones he recognized, disappeared in the shadow of his 65 years. Across his face and its ridges worn by forgotten deeds with their conflicted, misunderstood drives, moved traces of those years like clouds that morning, shifting, dissipating and returning and together they told a story, those lines and shadows, but no matter how long he stared, he couldn’t understand it, even now.

NOTE: Will post the story next week on the creative page. While you’re there, check out a new posting of the so-called Manifesto of Prague Writers

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