In Acknowledgement of Lester Bandicoot

Lester Bandicoot was drunk. He hadn’t slept in days. The moon was full. His biorhythms were a mess. And boy, was he mad!

He backed his rusty Ford Fairlane out of the driveway, sideswiped the neighbor’s garbage cans, careened wildly down the alley and sped across town. Within minutes, Peachtree Parkway slipped beneath the rusty Ford. And Lester headed south.

He was out for some unscheduled face time with George Maxwell Poots, Editor of Festival, the contemporary fiction magazine. Poots, you see, had rejected every story Lester had ever written.

Lester’s stories were awful, pathetic, rank. They sucked for air! Atrocious prose. Lame characterization. Hideous plots.

Poots felt so sorry for the guy, he began including constructive notes with the pink slips!

 

Lester:

Have received “Tall in the Saddle” and regret that it is not suitable for us at this time. As I’ve mentioned, please take care to avoid obvious mistakes. For example, Kate, who is executed by the Pod People, later appears as a check-out girl at the Piggly-Wiggly. And Bronco Muldoon, your stoic cowboy, is called Hop-a-Long Moody in chapter two. For the record: Nashville is in Tennessee; Pygmies are actually quite short; and Don Ho was an Hawaiian lounge singer. Have you read the books I suggested on plot, theme, setting, characterization, style, tone, geography, spelling and typing?

— George

 

Poots hated to bruise and bully. He knew every manuscript floating in the slush pile on his desk contained the hopes and dreams of some poor devil trying only to grasp a stitch of immortality via the printed word. But Lester’s work was unusually bad.

“The lout has sent me over 100 stories,” Poots told his wife, Molly, as they settled into bed. “Normally one’s work improves with practice– these actually get worse!”

“Why bother reading them, Georgie?”

George Maxwell Poots scrunched his pillow against the headboard, braced himself for another round with a Lester Bandicoot manuscript.

“I don’t know, Lambchop. After all these years, I must still believe in miracles.”

 

Lester Bandicoot hurtled through the night. He would seek retribution for the vanquished, the ignored, the rejected, those brushed aside, beaten down, those– God love ‘em!— unpublished nobodies who spill their guts on paper only to be slapped, pinched, spanked, and noogied by the likes of George Maxwell Poots and his big-time, hot-shot, whoremongering buddies who make their living by peeing all over decent people with undiscovered talent and unfulfilled dreams!

 

Hello again, Lester:

Have received “Adios, Cameroon!” and regret that it is not suitable for us at this time. Though Ramone may well have… dined with kings and waltzed with queens… and though he may have… blessed the quaking palms of the blind, syphilitic beggars of Istanbul…made love to a cannibal princess… and planted his pickax in the frigid blue cap of Kilimanjaro… it just seems like a lot of activity for an Arby’s assistant manager on holiday.

Did you receive the article I sent on opportunities in the building trades? I understand sheet rock guys are making a killing around here!

George

 

“You’re gonna pay, Pootsie. You, my friend, are gonna pay!

 

Lester combed the early morning parking lots and sidewalks of Atlanta, assembled a ragtag army of the residentially challenged, marched them over to the Varsity Drive-In. They mingled on the sidewalk along North Avenue until the famous eating establishment opened, and then Lester took them inside, tossed $500.00 on the counter and said, “Give these knuckle-heads whatever they want, put them in that room over there and keep ‘em happy. I’ll be right back.”

He was at wits end, looked terrible. Alcohol, rejection and lack of sleep had teamed to work their twisted magic on poor Lester. As he burst into the modest offices of Festival magazine, he came face-to-face with a neatly dressed older man who stared at Lester as if he, Lester, were a large, snarling rodent sliding wildly across a linoleum floor.

Lester handed the man a letter:

 

Good day to you, Lester:

Have received “Gutterball” and regret that it is not suitable for us at this time. This is, indeed, a startling glimpse into the world of clothing optional bowling; however, I couldn’t help but feel the premise of your story was simply a set-up for the double entendres, crude dialog and over-the-top descriptive passages which followed. If I may: seek beauty and truth. Humor will flow naturally. I think you’ll find it all the more rewarding.

—George

 

“Lester Bandicoot!”

“C’est moi!”

Lester pretended to have a gun. He marched Mr. Poots over to the Varsity and into a room where 58 grateful souls were devouring everything in sight. He spread his manuscripts on a table and told everyone to shut up. As Poots read aloud.

He made Poots read every story he had ever written, every lame-brained plot, contrived scenario, pointless anecdote, ill-advised turn-of-phrase, every pathetic bit of tripe he’d put to paper over the expanse of a decade.

And at the close of each story, as the one-dimensional protagonist waxed poetic on some sophomoric lesson learned, Lester Bandicoot looked out over his audience and hollered, “Gentlemen, what’s the verdict?”

And Lester’s audience, chock full of chili dogs, fried pies and good cheer applauded like crazy. They yelled, “Yeah, Baby!” and “Two thumbs up, dog!” and “Tell me somepin’ I don’t know!”

They applauded for Hold the Mayo! for Pipin’ Hot Love Doodles! and for Buddy’s Sticky Wicket. They cheered for The Archbishop of Dingleberry, for The Illegitimate Offspring of Jingles McCoy and for Hey, Look– it Wiggles!

And after each story, as the applause subsided, Mr. Poots was forced to apologize to Lester for a horrendous lack of insight in rejecting his work.

When it was over— after the cops had shooed the homeless guys away, after Poots had declined to press charges, after Lester had had a good cry behind a garbage dumpster— Lester attempted to explain himself to Mr. Poots.

“You see, Smarty Pants? I’ve got a following. I’ve got fans. And I’m somebody!”

 

Late that night, safe and warm in slippers and jammies, Lester Bandicoot decided to write a story. It was about a writer, as it happens, who takes on The Man, who makes a statement— who stands for something. He called it What’ll Ya Have! and he dropped it in the mail early the next morning and it wasn’t but a few days later when he received a cordial reply which began, “And a very fine good day to you, Lester. Have received your latest effort and am afraid it simply is not suitable for our magazine at this time…”

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