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The final edit


I finished the first draft of the story and sat back in my chair contentedly, relishing the pleasure that courses through one’s body on the heels of such an event. “That’s pretty good;” I thought, “a little rework here and there, then I’ll polish it up and put it out on my website.”
“I’m not sure that I like this paragraph.” The voice of my wife came in through my reverie. “I don’t get what it is that you are trying to say here. Is this about an old girlfriend?” She held a finger out in front of me and pointed to the offending sentence on the computer screen.
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll look at it.”
“She’s right,” said Twain. “That sentence is as tangled as the roots of a delta tree clinging to an eroding riverbank!”
The Zen master chimed in as well. “How many times will you cross the same river, Grasshopper?”
“All right, all right. I get the point,” I said, as I sat back up and began to work my way down through the story, scrolling as I went, deleting some words here, changing other words there. Finishing that pass, I went through it again, making a few minor changes as I went. The story was now much more compact, more concise. “This is better,” I thought.
“Dieses wird geschissen!” boomed Nietzsche.
“Where the hell did you come from?” I stammered.
“Sacre bleu, have you forgotten everything you learned in the past?” roared Proust.
Shakespeare felt compelled to add, "Heaven make thee free of it."
“Pounding at the gates of American literature again, huh,” said Brautigan.
"Hey, easy guys. This isn't so bad." The chorus of disapproving grunts behind me said differently. Once again, I poured myself into the story, deleting words and removing whole sentences. Highlite and delete, click and cut, I tore through the work deleting verbs and nouns from the story as the document's word-counter fell lower and lower, spinning down like the altimeter in a movie about World War II fighter pilots. After this second pass was complete, I sat back in my chair and waited for the praise that was sure to follow.
"This is a singularly dreary tract of prose,” intoned Poe, pointing to the first paragraph.
"Arghhh," I yelled as I threw myself back into the edit. Words and letters fell from the work. I was in a fever, sweat dotting my brow and streams of water coursing down my back. Click, click, click went the keyboard and I cut, cut, cut.
"Now I see it," said Proust.
"Mark Twain," said Clemens.
"Grasshopper," said the Zen Master, "I hear the sound of one hand clapping."
More words fell from the piece as I continued to cut.
"Yossarian," whispered Joseph Heller.
"Cry havoc," said the bard.
With a smirk, Nietzsche spoke quietly, "Ecce story,"
"Mayonnaise," said Brautigan.
"Et tu, Laudizen?" asked Caesar.
It was over, the story complete! I threw myself back from my desk, exhausted and spent, and looked at the word-counter where the number '1' sat naked-like on the screen. I stared at what remained on the display, the single group of letters, the soul essence of my story, one of the most powerful words in the English language and the only word to survive the edit.