By Janet Bellinger
I worked at two low paying jobs, in order to help support two kids in college, plus my writing. My husband had a job too, but he just couldn’t swing it financially on his own. We needed two incomes. I worked at my telemarketing job during the day, and then scurried over to Brampton, where I tutored students in the evenings. It was the pits. I had a student at five o’clock, another one at seven then another one at nine. I had to kill 3 hours somehow each evening. I usually ended up in a coffee shop, dourly reading a book and watching the clock. After all that coffee, my back teeth would be floating out by the time I got back home again, feeling so irritable, that I snapped at my husband, Jeb.
I wrote furiously when I got the chance, which wasn’t often. I’d been writing all my life and had never been published, not evening the newspaper. You’d think I would have learned by now, given up and laid my pen aside.
I had no choice in the matter. I felt compelled to write, just as a cliffhanger compelled me to keep turning the pages. If I didn’t write, my soul would wither, and I would become a shadow of myself. Writing defined me. Anyways, as you can imagine, the lack of opportunity to write, frustrated me big-time. The two low paying jobs helped us make ends meet though and I had a sense of satisfaction from that.
I turned onto our street, after returning from the tutoring job, in Brampton and reminded myself to get the mail. I hadn’t yesterday, and Jeb never thought to. I pulled up alongside the community mailbox, put on the parking brake and stepped out of the car. I opened up our mailbox. Bills and flyers tumbled out, along with a couple of solicitations for charities. I scooped it all into my arms, hoping I hadn’t missed anything, in the dark. I’d sift through it when I got home.
I let myself into the house and greeted our Labrador Retriever, Bing who waited by the door, then walked into the computer room to say hi to Jeb.
“Did you get the mail?” he asked.
The silver strands in his hair shone out, amongst the brown, under the fluorescent light. He looked tired.
I walked over to him, and kissed the top of his head.
“Yeah,” I answered. “I’ll go through it in a minute, and bring yours in here. Did you have any supper?”
Jeb nodded. “Chicken wings and salad. I left some for you in the fridge.”
“Thanks. Do you want to watch a movie tonight, or something?” I asked.
He turned to me and smiled. “Yeah. Especially something.”
I swatted him lightly. “Later, mister. I’m starved. Give me a chance to eat first.”
“Well, okay. If you want to be that way about it. Just joking.”
“I’ll just be a few minutes, okay, Jeb? Why don’t you slip into something more comfortable, while I nibble on a couple of wings?”
“”I’ve got something better for you to nibble on. Don’t be too long, okay?’
I picked up the mail from where I’d dumped it, on the kitchen counter. I sorted it into four piles, one for Jeb, one for me and one each for our kids, Jacob and Martha. One of mine, in a plain, white envelope, didn’t have any return address on it. It must be a sales letter or charity plea. I almost pitched it. But wait; there was a return address. Backwoods Publishing, an obscure publishing house I didn’t remember submitting to. I guess I’d forgotten that one, due to all the submissions I’d put out lately. It must be a rejection letter; nobody would contact me by mail if they were accepting my work for publication.
I opened the envelope. There was a cheque inside for $10,000 inside plus a letter explaining that the publishers records showed that they’d never paid me for my romance novel, “The Way It Is,” that I’d submitted to them five years ago.
Never paid me? Hell, they’d never even told me they were going to publish it. I’d never signed a contract. I could have sued them big time if I’d chosen to but I was too thrilled to hear that I’d actually been published.
“Jeb,” I called, sprinting up the stairs and waving the cheque.
“You’ll never guess what happened.”