Jill handed out her sheets of paper printed in a small Georgian font. The novel class squinted at the black words and followed as the raspy reader took them on a poetic journey in the subterranean landscape of far-north South Africa. Every now and then Jill’s raspy voice choked on some of her words. She was nervous yes, but mostly it was just that it had been over forty minutes since her last cigarette. At 23 her voice box was smothered with ash and smoke. Her class-mates called her “Smokin’ Jill.”
When it came to the end with only space left the class-mates agreed that the words were beautiful and suggested grammar fix-ups a few minor characterisation flaws etc. Jill clutched her words to her heart and nodded. Peter, a fellow writer, withdrew his gaze from the page in front of him. His right hand smudged with blue ink – the entire sheet of Jill’s work in front of him was full of scribbles. Crossed out, “what is this?” “confused???” He hated the piece but he hated everyone except his dog, but sometimes even the dog got on his nerves.
“Well.” Peter said and Jill held her breath and waited for him to get it over with. If he did not have his righteous moment then he might explode, splatter the walls with bright salty blood and shit. He was sure to be full of lots of shit.
“I just thought, to be Frank, although my name’s Peter,” he tittered to himself then, “the characterisation of Rebecca is just not realistic. Women do not talk like that. Not in my experience. Also, why is she driving a jeep? I can just not picture it. The whole voice is off-putting. I’m not sure what the point of the whole thing is. Maybe you should start again. I think that would be best in the long run. I mean, you do want to be a published novel don’t you? That’s what we’re all here for isn’t it.”
Jill wasn’t listening but had started imagining that she was smoking a cigarette right then and there. When she had finished smoking her imaginary ciggie she butted it out on Peter’s face, singeing his bushman eyebrows, stabbing it up one of his nostrils marvelling at the smoke curling out like stray tentacle. Jill smiled.
“Thanks for the feedback everyone.”
Peter, oh, he’d have his novel workshopping turn. Jill would bring her red pen and sharp tongue that week.