Owning a home came with its own challenges, which the new Mr. and Dr. Austmann took to with gusto. Plumbing problems, squeaky floors- that often needed waxing and polishing as well and peeling plaster all seemed to be no problem for Marcus or Eva. They loved turning their house into a home. Marcus said it gave him something to do during the layoffs in the winter. Mr. Jacobson had no need for crews to paint during the winter, so the men were let go. Some found other employment, but Marcus spent his time working on the house and writing his stories, mostly for Eva.
Eventually he started sending some around to various magazine publishers, though most thought his stories were “not our thing” or asked him to submit again after he’d got more experience. Marcus never showed these rejection slips to Eva, but instead kept them in a file with each story he submitted and the corresponding rejection letter. Little by little, things started to change. Rejections with no notes became rejections with notes. As he reworked stories, he would eventually got a bite with the story of the Djinn’s heart. It was for an Annual called 1001 tales… and was to be published the following spring. With it, he received an acceptance form and a cheque for twenty five dollars. Twenty five dollars wasn’t a lot, but it wasn’t bad either. About one-third of a week’s pay for a story he’d made up to tell a girl he met at a dance. Not bad. Marcus was on fire. Someone was (theoretically) going to read his work! More importantly, someone had paid him for his work!
He felt like he had the first time he drank coffee.
Marcus had been six years old, the first time he drank coffee. His father had been about to drink his morning cup of coffee, when he’d been interrupted by one of the hands with some emergency or other. Everyone ran out to see what happened, leaving Marcus to his own devices. Marcus, being curious and wanting to be just like his old man, drank the whole bitter mess. Black coffee no sugar, hit his 6 year-old body and he was off like a shot when it kicked in, bounding around the place and running all over until the inevitable crash and stomach upset later- Marcus had drunk the coffee on an empty stomach. Until receiving that first check for his writing, that had been the greatest sheer chemical high he’d ever felt.
This blew all that away. Marcus was now an author. He ran into the house and upstairs where Eva was repairing some clothes. He planted a full kiss on her mouth sticking himself with the needles she held in her mouth in the process.
“They bought it! They bought it!” he said.
“What? Who did?”
“They bought ‘The Djinn’s Heart’”
“What? That’s amazing!” said Eva.
“Honey, you’re an author now! A published author!”
“Well, I will be when they go to print.”
“When’s that?” she asked.
“In the spring.”
“That’s great, did they pay you?”
“They did.” he said.
“That’s wonderful! There are so many things that could go to to help around the house. We really could-“
“No? You don’t even know what I’m going to say.”
“I know, but right now I’m so excited that I could fly and if you tell me we’re going to buy drapes or groceries with it, I’ll feel just like a kid who runs downstairs to open his christmas presents and gets a pair of socks.”
“This is exciting and we didn’t budget for this. Before we spend it on sensible things, I want to have a few minutes to imagine the things I could spend it on.”
“You don’t make sense.”
“No, but I don’t have to. I’ll come back to earth in a moment, but for now, let’s just be excited.”
Eva didn’t have to pretend. She was excited. She had found the rejection slips attached to his stories while cleaning one day and she knew he was trying not to show her his failures. She never mentioned she found them as long as they were married, knowing it would feel wrong to bring it up if he chose not to. Remembering those slips made up her mind.
“I tell you what. I’ll dress up and you put on your fancy suit and we’ll go out tonight to the best restaurant in town. You show me a good time Sergeant and tomorrow, we’ll be practical with whatever is left over.”
“Yes doctor!” he said.
That evening they shared a meal more opulent than they had on their wedding night. Eva was proud of Marcus’s accomplishments and it was good to get out for the evening. Marcus remembered how they had talked that night, really catching up talking about things from how their work was going, to memories they shared. It was a fitting reward for his accomplishment and there was no one he would rather share it with.
Marcus couldn’t imagine a night better than the one that passed between him and Eva. The feeling of accomplishment and pride added joy and purpose to his actions afterward and remained the high point of his recent memory until just over a year later, when it was surpassed and left in the dust. That was when he first held Jack.