This short story is dedicated with MUCH affection to Alison Dasho, my wonderful editor, currently on the road to recovery after major surgery.
“I hope I can get a lot of editing done today, after the odd dreams the other night,” Alison said, firing up the laptop and tucking covers around herself.
Her cat purred, kneading imposing claws in the comforter, but made no promises.
“Do you smell something?” Sitting bolt upright in the chair, Alison took a deep breath. “Like some kind of exotic flower? WHAT cheap product has the cleaning lady been using?”
Next minute there was a clap of thunder, pearly gray mist swirled into the room through the open window and she blinked as two imposing figures walked through the mist, coming to stand in front of her chair. Reassured that the cat wasn’t upset by this sudden development, Alison narrowed her eyes, studying the newcomers.
Both men looked as if they’d stepped off the cover of a hot Carina Press historical romance – tall, muscles to spare, six pack abs, bare chested, short linen kilts…but the person on the left had the elegant head of a wading bird atop his to-die-for body. An ibis perhaps? And the guy on the right seemed strangely familiar –
“I know you, you’re Sobek the Crocodile God from Veronica’s Egyptian novels,” Alison said. “I was editing the newest one yesterday at breakfast.” She pinched her arm. “Ow! But this has to be a dream. I can’t be awake.”
“We came to ask for your assistance,” Sobek said, deep voice rumbling, handing her a single blue lotus blossom.
She set the flower next to the laptop. That’ll need a vase. “Ok, I’ll play along. What do you need and why didn’t you go find Veronica? She’s more used to dealing with you Egyptian deities than I am.”
Bowing slightly, Sobek introduced his companion. “This is Thoth, Scribe to the Gods. He tires of merely recording events and totaling accounts and has decided to write a novel. ” The ibis-headed one fidgeted from one foot to the other like a great bird, as Sobek continued. “Thoth requires the services of a truly masterful editor. Veronica recommended you in the highest terms.”
Making a mental note to have a small talk with Veronica about who she was giving recommendations to, Alison nodded. “Does he need developmental edits or line edits?” What am I saying?
Thoth bowed to her, hand over his heart. “See for yourself, my lady.” He snapped his fingers and a large papyrus scroll appeared on the desk, causing the cat to hiss as it scooted into the closet.
Alison stared while the scroll unspooled one laborious turn at a time, each layer rolling off the wooden spindle until the somewhat unusual manuscript covered the desk, and stretched out for six feet on either side. Wow, they’d reject this if it showed up in the slush pile! Bright red, yellow, black and turquoise hieroglyphics glowed on the papyrus. “Um, small problem here, I can’t read the writing.” Although that does look like a series of exclamation points. And he sure is using the same symbol over and over in the first section…
“It is the story of a brave sailor who was shipwrecked and rescued, bringing great riches home to his pharaoh. I wish to read it tomorrow at a feast day of the gods,” Thoth explained. “But I am blocked. My sailor’s ship has sunk, all his companions have drowned and he’s trapped on a desert island.”
“My wife Merys suggested we ask Veronica for help and she said you might be able to guide Thoth in adding conflict and tension, layer in some foreshadowing – “
Alison held up one hand. “If you need this tomorrow, we have a problem.” She gestured at the laptop. “I have a queue of books I’m editing and I’m only supposed to be working half time right now.”
“If I exercise my magic and give you the ability to read the hieroglyphics, might you be able to help Thoth with just the desert island scene?” Sobek asked hopefully. Not waiting for her answer, he extended his hand, touching hers. Green lights flickered from his fingertips, caressing her elegantly manicured hand with a faint tingling.
Realizing the hieroglyphics made sense to her now, Alison began to read. She searched for a pen. “Too much back story here, guys. And in the next section you have your sailor telling about the ship sinking. Why not show it instead?”
Thoth made notes with his quill pen on a tablet he pulled from a pouch on his belt. “Show versus tell,” he scratched.
“You might add a character here on the island,” she said next. “Get another point of view.”
Sobek elbowed Thoth in the ribs, earning himself a glare. “See, did I not tell you?”
“You can build tension by letting the reader wonder what the island dweller’s motives are, is he or she going to help Sailor? Or harm him somehow?” Alison was getting into the flow of the story now. “You’ve got some great lyrical phrases here but you really need to use more contractions…”
So she worked with Thoth for perhaps an hour, Sobek making suggestions from time to time, until the Scribe informed the Crocodile he wasn’t getting credit as co-author, at which point Sobek lost interest and went to play with the cat, who’d crept out of hiding.
At last, waving his hands, the Scribe uttered a pithy Egyptian spell and the scroll ponderously rolled itself back onto the spindle, before disappearing with a flash of green light and a loud pop. Thoth bowed to Alison. “I thank you, my lady. I know now how to finish the tale and please my fellow gods. They’ll surely beg for a sequel. And perhaps want to make it into a play.”
“Tell Veronica to get to work on her sequel about my sister-in-law Tyema, I beg of you,” Sobek said to Alison, joining Thoth in the center of a rapidly growing cloud of mist.
Alison blinked and they were gone. “Well,” she said, “That had to be a dream – I must have dozed off.” She pushed aside the comforter, ready to go into the kitchen for more tea. “What’s this?” A single blue lotus lay on the desk, the heavenly scent fading. Goosebumps on her arms, Alison booted up the laptop, googling ancient Egyptian epic poems. “The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor,” she read, “Author Unknown. Legends suggest it came from the pen of the god Thoth.” Picking a spot at random in the text on the screen, she read on. “The wind grew sharp and made a constant moaning and there were hungry fourteen foot high waves…” Guess he accepted my edits!
HUGS to you, Alison, glad you’re feeling better…I know there were too many exclamation points in my little tale and we just won’t talk about the “-ly” words! Best wishes always, from Sobek, Thoth, Merys and me LOL.
NOTE: A little group of us who are fortunate enough to work with Alison are each “gifting” her with a short short story as a get well amusement. Here’s the schedule if you’d like to read more:
Diane Dooley‘s post is already up
RL Naquin will be posting hers on Feb 11. http://www.rlnaquin.com/
J L Hilton will be posting hers on Feb 14 at http://www.JLHilton.com/
Shawna Thomas will be posting hers on Feb 19 at http://www.shawnathomas.com/