Word Count 475
Letter from the Dolgeville Jail
By Terry Rainey
My Dear Fellow Writers,
Someone read my limegreen book and counted how many words I really use each week. From 512 up to 729. Pattern of misconduct including combined words, sentence fragments, no verbs, colons, semicolons; even just deleted spaces between words.
Who turned me in? Who looked up the old Little Falls ordinances and filed the word count charge? I’m not looking to blame someone. I like every person in this room. Well, some of you. But there’s something in my skull that bounces back and forth. Every time my cell door closes, I hear it. Those damn boy scouts chanting Friction.
Things aren’t too bad in Dolgeville Jail. Some reading material. Grimm’s Fairytales about Artificial Lungs on the Wall, Dr. Seuss’s Dead Cat in the Hat stories, Keeping Up with the Scaranos.
I’ve had time to read the Natty Bumpo stories. I discovered that LittleFallians used to tie wordcount offenders to a chair and throw them in the Mohawk. Floating was proof of word witchcraft and they set upon them with tongue extenders. If they sank, it proved innocence, but posthumously.
I’m in a cell between Freddie the Cat Man and a NatalEmulationSimulation theorist gone mad. Actually I’ll have lots of interesting story characters, once I get used to the stinkbugs and garlicky chow.
My judge was borrowed from the Dolgeville Poetry Contest, and like many poets, wanted to prove a point with a harsh, literary sentence: Every week I have to present a story here and read it as if nothing had happened, and atone for my overworded missives by going under 500 words, till I make up 1,324 words.
“Son of a bitch” you’re thinking, he’s writing about himself. Sunuvabitch, one word, bytheway. And bytheway is one word. Dealwithit. Dealwithit, need I say: one word.
I tell you what, when my only free hours each week are in this room in this library, I breathe in the sweet air, even the offensive stream of it coming straight down from the ceiling.
You ask yourself: How much longer is this sunuvabitch reading before I can read my story? Sit tight. Stop looking at me. Close your eyes. Stop counting my words. Ok, open your eyes. But don’t look at me; look at the people in this room.
While you’re looking, ask yourself about that comment someone made last week about your lightning piece. Was it sincere? Really? What about all the things others in the room did not say? And, remember, there’s a word counter in here. Try not to stare uncomfortably. I’m gonna keep my head down and read. Wipe the guilty look off your face.
What we got here is real dissonance. Embrace it. It’s good stuff, dissonance. Call me crazy, but a good dose of dissonance is spice for your writing. Bring it every week.
475,25 off my sentence.