Rock the Boat

© Kari Helm

I grew up swimming in the Great Lakes. My childhood was built on sandcastle competitions, pretending to be a mermaid, and diving for rocks. I knew how to fight off currents and hold my breath longer than most kids my age and when I got older, skinny dipping was as natural as being born. On more than one occasion, I’ve been lulled to sleep by the repetitious sound of a gently rumbling tide, or matched in temper by the buffeting slaps of an angry breeze. So, I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that I consider large bodies of water a second kind of home.

My best friend didn’t know this when we first met.

At the time, we had only been friends for about six months and although we were starting to become close, we were only at the beginning stages of our relationship. You know, that stage where you actually care about the words that come out of your mouth when you’re talking to another person. Well, anyways, like normal young Americans, we decided to hang out at a local fast food place to chat after having had a long day of classes and an even longer day spent shopping on a broke person’s budget. Everything was going great until I noticed her weird and more than just slightly off behavior. I kept asking her about it in between increasingly worried thoughts of how maybe she might actually be thinking of robbing the joint. I mean, why else would she be kneading her napkin, looking hurriedly out the window, and sweating like a pregnant woman 23 hours into heavy labor?

It didn’t make much sense.

Well, finally after my patience had long been depleted and I’d asked her for the hundredth time, she whispered a frantic reply that I didn’t quite catch the first time around. So I bugged her to spit it out already.

Looking back at me, as serious as can be, she then managed to get out that if she was stuck on a boat with her best friend Esmeralda (whose name has been changed to maintain her cool spy-like identity) and myself and had to choose which of us to toss out on our ass in order to save the other, then she would easily knock me overboard first.

Cricket. Cricket.

Did she seriously just say she’d make me fish bait?

Yes, yes she did.

To say I was confused would be putting it mildly. After all, here I was, minding my own bee’s wax when out of the blue this new friend of mine told me she’d kill me to save her other friend’s life. Right, like that’s an everyday segway into a friendly relationship… I think not.

Without going into too much back story, we got past this embarrassingly awkward moment of our newly budding friendship and have since become extremely close friends. And, with a tad bit of IN-YOUR-FACEness, I’m happy to announce that after further conversation I’ve now been reassured that it would be Esmeralda’s sorry hiney thrown out to sea. Not that I was much worried because, as I’ve said before, I’m at home in the water. And I’m pretty sure I could have taken them out before they had the chance to push me overboard anyways.

But I digress.

This blog post isn’t about my weird association with people that want to kill me, but rather it’s about my recent discovery of a rejection email from a short story competition that I had applied to months ago. I had written a story that I (not to toot my own horn) knew was pretty damn good and, for the first time in my writing career, I had true confidence in getting something published. Not only was the idea solid but I had pushed that baby back and forth to my personal editors for a year to get it just right before applying to this specific competition. I’ve applied to other competitions for publication and haven’t won, but this was the first story I really thought stood a fighting chance. I truly felt like I had it in the bag.

But as fate would have it – that didn’t happen.

I didn’t even place, which was an even bigger disappointment. I know it’s ridiculous to get your hopes too far up about something like this, considering the likelihood of being published and the difficulty in pursuing a dream that everybody in America seems equally hell bent on dreaming, but I rather get my hopes trampled upon than have zero, zilch, nadda when it comes to having faith in something. I’m not trying to kid myself, I mean, I know I’m going to mope about it for a while and feel sorry for myself until I’ve mooched enough sympathy out of everyone around me and they get sick of me sucking the life out of them. That’s just how the real world rolls. Then, with a bruised ego and a reality check, I’ll once again continue writing and submitting until that day comes when I do get published.

So, I guess the lesson learned is: if I can handle a friend’s rejection then a story rejection should be a walk in the park. And better yet, if I can change one rejection, I sure as hell have the power to change the other!

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