Peeling Back the Veneer

“Your writing is driven by your attitude of personal prestige, an air of disdain for others. It’s stuck in the middle of that unearned sense of superiority you so readily use to belittle the real emotions people feel. You’ve become a bitch with a pen. If you don’t change, your writing won’t change. And if your writing doesn’t change, it will no longer be published.”

Jennifer recalled those words and the force with which they were delivered. Linda’s face had been square and hard-edged, as if chiseled in stone when she spoke them, a huge contrast to the normal soft, roundness so associated with gentleness and love. As she looked in the mirror, she watched real tears roll down her cheeks.

She tried to remember her last real apology, the one she actually meant, but the memory just wouldn’t come. Every recollection was of her practicing her thespian art. Every memory was of artificial contrition meant to assuage hurt feelings that, to her way of thinking, had emphasized the fragility of the egos of weak people.

Linda had been Jennifer’s editor and closest friend for ten years. She had suggested “Dear Jennifer,” the regional newspaper’s version of  “Dear Abby.” The enormity of its immediate success was as much of a surprise to Linda as it had been to Jennifer.

The novelty of the column’s success wore off quickly. Jennifer got used to the celebrity and the growing compensation her writing generated. Her first major purchase, just six months after the first column had been printed, was a new Acura to replace the ten-year-old Honda. The car in the garage now is a brand-new Jaguar.

After ten years of being told she was a genius, ten years of accolades washing over her like a tide of unrelenting worship, it was hard not to believe them. Ten years in the spotlight can change a person. Or, perhaps, ten years can reveal the person hidden beneath the veneer.




About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Peeling Back the Veneer

  1. Holly, Carolyn Hax is a new name for me; I am so abysmally poorly-read! Now that I’ve checked her out, though, I may have a new source of inspiration about Jennifer! Thanks for the ongoing supportive comments. We never really got around to talking about your writing, not in detail. So, send me some samples!

  2. Holly Forrest says:

    Great character piece. Reminds me of my initial antipathy toward Carolyn Hax. She’s grown on me, though. As always, I am left wanting more from you, JS. Hope you’ll develop this one.

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