The Submission

Phone rings.

“Hello?”

“I’m speaking to Tushar? Tushar Jain?”

“Yup. That’s me. Who’s this?”

“This is Stuart Gill.”

“Sorry. Don’t know any Stuart Gill.”

“I –”

Phone is disconnected. After a moment, it rings again.

“Hello?”

“Why did you disconnect the phone?”

“May I know who’s speaking?”

“I just told you! It’s Stuart Gill.”

“And I just told you that I don’t know any Stuart Gill.”

“Wait! I –”

The phone is disconnected. A beat later, it rings again.

Tum ta-tum tum. Hello?”

“Don’t you dare hang up this time!”

“Oh. Why all the temper? And don’t shout like that. I have sensitive ears.”

“Just listen! You submitted a poem for The Brat Review, didn’t you?”

“How did you…?”

“I’m Stuart Gill, the co-editor of The Brat Review.

“Wow! You people do personal calls? Most magazines just stick with emails. So… you’re publishing the poem?”

“No. But thanks for sending us ‘Sense and Suggestibility‘. We appreciate the chance to read your work but we’ll be passing on this poem. This is not a reflection on your writing. We pick perhaps one out of a hundred submissions. So, it’s not you; it’s us. We hope you’ll find a good home for it soon. Sincerely, Stuart Gill, The Brat Review.

“What the… Are you reading this out?!”

“No. I had the template memorized long back.”

“And you called me to tell me my work’s been rejected? Heartless piece of–”

Phone is disconnected. Rings again.

“Didn’t I tell you not to hang up!”

“What do you want now? I got the message, okay? Leave me alone. I need to sulk. I mean, sleep.”

“Not so fast. I have to discuss this poem you submitted.”

“I don’t want your critical evaluation.”

“And I’m not giving you one. This poem ‘Sense and Suggestibility‘…”

“What about it?”

“I have reason to believe it’s about me.”

Pause.

“Stuart, I don’t know where you’re calling from but it’s pretty late here. I really want to go back to sleep. Why don’t you go pester some other poet?”

“‘Some other poet’ didn’t write a poem attacking me. You did.”

“That’s ridiculous! I’ve not attacked anyone!”

“Can you categorically say that you didn’t write this poem attacking me? I’ll leave you alone and let the whole matter go.”

“Of course I can’t say that!”

“Aha!”

“Aha nothing! Didn’t you read the poem? It’s Cubist! Its whole aim is to reject the singleness, the oneness of meaning. Haven’t you ever seen a Picasso? A Braque? Read Cummings? Faulkner? Cubist works are meant to throw off the reign of meaning. They mean nothing and everything at the same time. If I say the poem doesn’t specifically attack you, I might as well say the poem doesn’t exist.”

“Bullshit. Cubism’s a bloody excuse! This poem is a targeted attack on me, my wife, my daughter and my dog!”

“Jesus!”

“In the fourth stanza –”

“Wait a minute! Even if the poem offends you, you cannot blame me for it. It’s already written. It exists independently of me. If you have a problem, blame the poem! Take its meter into a dark alley and break its legs. An artist is not always his art, Gill. Sometimes he’s just the brush or the pen or the paper.”

“An artist is always his art! And nothing but.”

“Oh really? By that logic, Jackson Pollock must’ve been a spaghetti fetishist.”

“In the fourth stanza of the poem, this wide, almost four inch gap between the letters ‘S’ and ‘M’ quite obviously is meant to poisonously mock the growing distance between me and my wife! ‘S’ is Stuart. ‘M’ is Meredith.”

“Your wife’s name is Meredith?”

“How the hell do you know my wife’s name?”

“Stuart, in ‘Sense and Suggestibility‘, language is scattered, fractured and tossed around. That doesn’t mean–”

“In the third stanza, in the word ‘expels’, the ‘S’ is italicized. Oh, I know what this is, you foul, cruel pig! The ‘S’ clearly references my seven-year-old daughter Sadie’s expulsion from school for the possession of a hand grenade, a Bushmaster QRC Tactical Semi-Auto Rifle and an expanded edition of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.”

“Your daughter’s name is Sadie?”

“You know my daughter’s name too! Who’s feeding you this information about my family? I’ve had enough of you, I tell you. Here. Talk to my wife.”

“Your wife?!”

“Her name’s Meredith. But I guess you already knew that!”

The phone changes hands at one end.

“Hello?”

Fils de pute! T’es un salaud! T’es rien qu’un petit connard!”

“Meredith, please calm down. I’m innocent! I –”

Je vais te casser la gueule si fort que tu vas cracher toutes les dents!”

Stuart takes back the phone.

“Okay, Meredith, dear. Have a sip of water, love. You heard all of that? She meant every word!”

“Why did you hand the phone to your wife?”

“The poem’s about her too, isn’t it?”

“The joke’s on you. I haven’t the slightest idea what she said.”

“You don’t understand French? Wait. Here. Talk to the interpreter.”

“You have an interpreter!”

“I always have an interpreter with me. I don’t understand French either. And I’ve been married for fifteen years.”

The phone changes hands again at one end.

“Hello, sir. I am Ingrid. Ingrid the interpreter. I’m so sorry for all this. You sound like a very nice man. Madame gets a temper at times. I hope you will not take this personally. So, first she called you a ‘son of a bitch’. Then, a ‘bastard’. Then, how do you say it in English? An ‘asshole’? I believe that is the correct expression. Finally, she said she was going to hit you so hard that you’ll end up spitting out all your teeth. I think that’s all. Wait, did I mention ‘asshole’?”

“Oh, you certainly did, Ingrid.”

Merci. Have a good day, sir! Please talk to my employeur.”

The phone is returned to Stuart.

“Hello, this is Stuart here again.”

“Enough is enough!”

“You’re absolutely right. Enough is enough. I completely agree. But wait. Here. Talk to my daughter.”

“What?!”

Phone changes hands. A child squeals.

“You’re a very bad man!”

Phone changes hands again.

“Hello, it’s Stuart again. That was Sadie.”

“That’s it! No more of this! I’ll confess! Just stop handing the damn phone over to people. I’m dog-tired and I really need to get back to sleep. You want the truth? Here’s the truth. The poem is targeted at you.”

“I knew it!”

The Brat Review has rejected three of my submissions. You think a writer will never hit back?”

“So – so, in the poem, the word ‘limp’ in the third line–”

“It’s a taunt about your flagging sex life. I did my research.”

“You evil shit! And in the fourth stanza, the three-legged footstool is–”

“A metaphor for your limping, three-legged dog, Trudy.”

“I’m going to kill you! But first, here. Talk to Trudy.”

“No! Don’t hand the phone–”

The phone changes hands. A series of angry barks and furious growling is heard over the line for a time. Eventually, it is returned to Stuart.

“It’s Stuart again. Trudy isn’t happy with what you wrote about her.”

“Yeah, I got that feeling. Now, I’m going back to bed. I’m done with this.”

“I’m not! You know what? I think I’m going to kick your ass. Yeah, I feel like kicking your ass for this poem!”

“Good luck with that. I’m all the way in Mumbai, India! Haw haw haw!”

“I know that, poet. So am I.”

Brief Pause.

“What did you say?”

“I’m staying in the hotel right opposite your building. It’ll take me all of five minutes to come over to your place.”

“How did you even get here? You can’t afford to travel by air! You’re the editor of a literary magazine! More importantly, how the hell did you find me?”

“You submitted your address along with the poem for contributor copies, you greedy imbecile. I’m headed your way as we speak.”

“Wait, okay, tell me this much! You said you are the co-editor, right? I vaguely remember this but in the picture on the magazine’s webpage, both of you editors are standing close together. It’s difficult to make out who’s who. Are you the squat four foot nothing or the beefy, muscle-bound, six foot seven man covered in tattoos?”

“You’ll find out in exactly one minute.”

“No! Wait! Listen! It was all a joke! Come on! I didn’t actually mean–”

The phone is disconnected. A doorbell rings.

Leave a Reply