Nervously, I opened up the package, and sure enough, there was my manuscript, all marked up by the agent. But the writing was spidery thin, in light pencil, very difficult to read. I squinted but couldn't make out a single word. It was all gibberish, and it was driving me crazy. Was it good feedback? Bad? The more I tried to decipher it, the harder it was to make out.
I walked all through my living room, moving the pages under brighter and brighter light, but couldn't understand a word. And then I made an even more horrifying discovery--I had mailed out the wrong manuscript! I combed through the pages, trying to locate comments on the ending, which I think is the strongest part of the story. But it wasn't there! Instead, I discovered that I had accidentally mailed out yellow legal pads, dozens of them, and they were all blank. I had shot myself in the foot, passed up my big chance.
Then I woke up, because Josie ran into the room. "Did you hear what happened?" she asked.
Well, no. I kind of had this sleep thing going on.
"The space shuttle Columbia crashed," she said, and flicked on the TV.
Jesus. I sat up in bed. 7 dead, 2 women, 5 men, 6 American, 1 Israeli. 150 square miles of radioactive debris, falling into the Dallas/Forth Worth area, falling on the streets, the highways...debris that could mean a horrible death if you were to unsuspectingly get too close.
And I thought I was having a nightmare? Christ.
I hope that my friends in the Dallas area are safe, and will worry until I hear otherwise. I hope this isn't a part of a larger story, although I don't think presently that it is. I remember when the Challenger crashed, I was sitting in a pizza joint with my friend Pauline, and I remember the horror and dismay that I felt at that time, similar to how I feel now.
Was it carelessness? A fluke of nature? Underfunding of the NASA program? Something happened, but I don't think we can criticize our aspirations to expand man's scope beyond this big blue marble of ours. All we can do is to lick our wounds and move forward...and pray for the lives lost and those that loved and lost someone special today.