This is the fourth in a continuing series of posts about my experience (limited as it is) as an author. Click here for a complete index of all the stories in this series.
In the first installment of my “Author’s Journal” series, I told the story of a short story I wrote for a creative writing class in high school English. The story of how I wrote the story can be found here.
In that journal, I couldn’t remember the name of the story and didn’t know where I had a copy of it although I knew it existed somewhere.
I found it!
I went through a dusty old box on the top shelf of my bedroom closet and found the folder with my high school writing projects in it. Here is a PDF scan of the original handwritten manuscript complete with the teacher’s notes correcting my spelling in numerous places as well as a couple of other issues. I also have a handwritten note from her praising the work. In my journal a couple of months ago I could not remember the substitute teacher’s name but the note says “Mrs. Allen”.
Here is the complete text of the story as written with only the spelling errors corrected.
Man has always had two ambitions: to build a better mousetrap and to commit the perfect mortar. I have done the latter to the man who did the former.
David Brown was my victim. He had been a friend and business partner for some time until he dumped me from the company two months ago. We were in the pesticide business and our main product was rat poison. Business had been slipping because of bad talk about pesticides polluting the environment. People would rather clean up the trash to get rid of the rats than by our poison.
Then Dave came up with the answer. His formula affected only rats. It altered their chromosomes so that only male offspring were produced. In a generation, the racks would be extinct because there would be no females to reproduce. Dave put the product on the market the week after our partnership was legally dissolved. He had ruined me and I had to return the favor.
I once read a mystery story where a man was stabbed with a sharpened icicle. The motor was never caught because no weapon was found; it melted away. The idea started out as just a wild notion, and I didn’t take myself seriously at first.
Then, just to past time I started to work out details, but just to pass time. The longer I worked on my plan the more it appeared possible. Also as my plot started to gel; I grew more hateful each day toward my lost partner. I would look out my bedroom window and stare transfixed at the glistening spears going downward from the eaves of my house.
Then I did it. On the night of December 30 I left my house and walked around the side and carefully snapped off an icicle. As I walked towards my car, I chipped off pieces with my pocket knife till there was a clean sharp point. I left the heat off in my car so that the 10° weather would keep my weapon sharp. I knocked at the door with my icy weapon behind my back. Dave answered the door.
“Well, if it isn’t Bob Johnson my old partner. Come on in.”
I tried to stay calm, “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve decided I’ve been foolish about holding a grudge against you for putting me out of business.”
He smiled, “Well now, isn’t that sweet of you. Now, tell me why you’re really here.”
I slowly made my way over to him and patted him on the back. “Well, me tell you about it.” My arm swung around with every ounce of force in my body.
I pitched my icy weapon into the fireplace and left without closing the door. I drove down the street and went into a bar and got very drunk.
The police questioned me and never suspected me after I told them our partnership had been dissolved.
Three days later I attended the funeral. I was the last person to leave the church. As I walked out, I stopped on the top step to watch the hearse drive away. I reached back to pull my collar up to shield myself from the cold wind when a cold crystal clear icicle fellow from the eaves of the church and slid down my back.
p.13 Capital City Star
January 2, 1973
Robert C. Johnson died today in front of St. Peter’s Catholic Church of a heart attack. He was attending the funeral of his former business partner, David R. Brown, who was mysteriously murdered earlier this week.
The header on the original manuscript says it was for English VI, March 16, 1970.
The teachers notes written by hand in red ink on the story worth follows…
On the front cover she wrote “Very clever story-Good use of words. Good introduction A-”
There were numerous spelling errors such as spelling “always” as “allways”. As she read the story to the class she said to me “You know better than that.” The truth was I didn’t. I’m a terrible speller.
On the last page she wrote “I like the ‘irony of fate’ending.”
Then she attached a handwritten note as follows…
This is a great story! You have a natural knack for telling a tale. This one is suspenseful and well organized. Your sentences and phrases are well formed.
The “better mouse trap” gimmick is worth repeating or at least mentioning, a second time.
About the title – Why not “A Partnership Dissolves”, using of course, a play on the word “dissolved.”
As for myself, I prefer the story to end with – “… our partnership had been dissolved.”
Knowing when to quit is a neat trick to learn.
Many thanks for sharing your story. You have the potential for a “selling” author.Mrs. Allen
I had remembered her saying to me in person that I could’ve shortened the ending and repeated the comment “know when to quit.” But I seem to recall in person she simply suggested leaving off the news article and ending it with the icicle down the back. But her notes say that it should end after the police questioned me. On the other hand she liked the ironic ending so that speaks to leaving at least the irony and perhaps cutting the news article.
One other item after discovering this actual copy of the story… I was positive that I had used the phrase “recombinant DNA” as a technobabble catchphrase for the way that the poison worked. I was surprised it wasn’t there. It was a sort of genetic solution but I didn’t use that phrase which was a big catchphrase in 1970 in the world of genetics.
So there it is. My first great work of science fiction mystery published online for the first time ever in broad public. I hope you enjoyed it.