February 2011 Updates
Saul sat in his cubicle and watched his computer screen pretending it was a television. The excel spreadsheets were a safari, what sort of rhinos were hiding in the numbers? Tax forms. This was his job—hunting for foreign species inside the numbers. The bustling office offering camouflage for his secret poaching missions.
“Saul. Saul? I need your stapler. Saul?”
Saul turned to look at Maureen, his cubicle mate and co-worker. As he smiled at her he could feel creases forming in his face. Skin like origami. “Yeah. I don’t know. Sorry. My mind is having one of those days I guess.”
“Tell me about it. I can barely get myself to care about another number.”
Maureen pursed her lips, plumping up the redness and collagen. She was older than Saul by maybe forty years? This was his best guess. They didn’t talk numbers. It was an H and R Block, but they didn’t talk numbers.
The office park was surrounded by retirement communities. Condos made to look luxurious with rock-fountain, sculpted-topiary guarded entrances, but Saul knew it was an illusion. The security booths were empty. The gates opened and closed whenever a car was nearby, code or no code. Sun Ranch. Palm Manor. Eventual Heaven. They were home to women who still had to work at H & R Block. Women whose retirement wasn’t as realizable as they’d originally thought. Or maybe it was a love of the workplace? Saul had never asked specifics. He liked Maureen even though he wasn’t sure the feeling was mutual. Every day he felt her judging eyes cutting flesh from his face. He was a source of irritation but it was alright. He liked the maternal presence she gave to their cubicle: calendars of ducks and mugs with baby pictures graphically imprinted by the service of a mall kiosk. Sipping coffee from the smiling face of a child lighting the menorah. Saul’s family hadn’t taken a lot of pictures. The familial images he retained were blurry and isolated, lots of moving around, lots of different homes.
It’s always a somewhat awkward task to write about writing. It seems that by doing so, one is admitting that they do in fact consider themselves a writer, which is not a bad thing, but in my mind sounds like a weighty and weighted admission. This is not to say that if cornered I wouldn’t have to admit that I do write therefore I must be a write-tor, but it’s easier to pretend in my mind that sure, I like slinging words together, but there is no more import to it than that. Self-consciousness aside, the way I feel about writing is that it’s simply what I must do, it’s compulsory. This wasn’t always the case, it took me an undergraduate degree in film to realize that perhaps I was ignoring a more fitting calling, but now here I am.
The excerpt above originally belonged to a short story called “Saul Never Had a Jawline” but was ultimately excised from the piece. I thought this was a fitting example to include because I think one of the most important things I’ve learned about writing in the last few years is that you have to be willing to kill your darlings. You have to be willing to sacrifice pages and people and words for the greater good of the story. This can be difficult to do, but unless you’re brutal with your own work, you might never get to whatever greatness is lying in wait.
Rebecca Bernard is a first year MFA student in fiction. She received her BFA in film from NYU. Originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, she has spent the last few years living in Austin, writing and waiting tables. Her work can be seen or is forthcoming in the 322 Review, Menda City Review and the Grey Sparrow Journal. She is a fiction editor for Nashville Review.