I look over my suitcase. Toothbrush? Check. Shaving kit? Check. Bouncy attitude? Nothing under the folded shirts.
Maybe I misplaced it in the bedroom. It’s not under my unmade bed. Not in the pile of dirty laundry on the floor. I forgot to check the nightstand. Nope. Nothing in here but pens, discarded phone chargers, and my favorite pair of underwear. How’d that get in here?
I flop back onto the bed, wiped out and feeling unprepared. I just stare at the ceiling. The Las Vegas workshop is this Friday. Fifty-some fiction writers. Several anthology editors. My own submissions. After slogging through slush piles and my own editorial work. And they want table of contents? With original titles? Geez.
I’m making this worse than it needs to be. Worsening it? Worser? Is that a word? My sixth grade English teacher would have scolded me. Now I’m scolding myself. Gotta’ quit overthinking this.
I get back up and close the suitcase.
There’s nothing left to do but print the flight tickets. The dirty laundry can wait. I head downstairs to my computer.
Why does my home office comfort me? The led monitors give off a warm glow. The desk chair is broken in just right, cupping my butt perfectly. The keyboard makes soft, soothing clicks. No pressure, no deadlines. This is where I belong, not Vegas.
But a writer must write.
Click, click, click. Tickets printed.
Nothing left to do. I ooze into my chair. It’s arms seem to lovingly wrap around me. But my motivation feels like a deflated balloon. I just stare at the wall and wait for Friday.
Got to snap out of this. It’s Vegas! Bright lights, shows, all night gambling.
I shake my head. I can envision the scene. Hours and hours of rifling through hundreds of stories. Everyone is red-eyed and droopy. Finally, an editor looks over one of my works. He squints behind his coke-bottle glasses.
Then a sneer curls across his bearded lips. He holds my story up high for the groups benefit. “This is how NOT to make a story.”
I watch him with horror.
He looks at me and begins to laugh. Then the other editors laugh. Then everyone else joins in. They’re pointing fingers at me.
I sink down into my seat, but not low enough to hide my eyes from their ridiculing faces. The only thing I can do is make a break from this fiction apocalypse.
So I run out of the conference room and into a casino. People are gathered around a red velvet craps table. They’re cheering and having a good time.
I watch them from the sidelines. A cocktail waitress comes over. She smiles and holds out a silver tray. I gulp down two vodka martinis and feel a little better. Better enough to join the group at the craps table.
Someone hands me a pair of dice. They feel like cold stones in my hand. A chill fills my body. But I throw them anyway. Seven. Everyone at the table cheers. That’s a better response than a sneering editor. So I roll again. Eleven. More cheers.
This keeps going on. I can’t seem to lose. Maybe things are getting better for me.
But then I look up from my winning streak. The editor with the coke-bottle glasses is standing across the table. He’s sneering. And so are all of the other editors. The rest of the group presses in around me. They’re all sneering.
I’m trapped in. I swallow hard and roll the dice. Another seven.
“Keep throwing them. You can never leave this table. We will taunt you forever and ever,” the editor with the coke-bottle glasses says. Then everyone laughs.
Sweat is pouring off my brow. I keep throwing the dice, hoping for a snake eyes. I just need one losing roll to get off this nightmare table. Seven again. Everyone else keeps laughing.
That’s when I snap out of the bad dream. I’m still staring at my office wall. The flight tickets are in my shaking hand.
Friday. Vegas. Conference rooms. Editors. Only one week. How bad can it really be?